With Ben Roethlisberger’s status again in doubt because of shoulder and rib injuries, the Ravens face an interesting question leading up to Sunday.
Would Baltimore rather face the Steelers at their best with their starting quarterback on the field, or with 37-year-old third-stringer Charlie Batch under center one week after passing for no touchdowns and three interceptions?
Safety Bernard Pollard’s response was pretty definitive, but not in the either/or sense.
“I really don’t care,” he said. “We don’t care who lines up at quarterback. For us, it’s a game that’s going to be physical. They’re going to come and try to win, whoever’s under center. If Ben plays, I know what kind of competitor he is. This guy is probably one of the strongest quarterbacks in the National Football League, probably one of the most competitive quarterbacks, him and Phillip Rivers.
“But when it’s all said and done, whoever lines up lines up. We have our own (business) to take care of. We’re not worried about what these guys are going to do - who’s all in here, who’s not, who’s playing, who’s not. We really don’t care.”
Leading up to the Ravens’ first meeting with the Steelers two weeks ago, linebacker Terrell Suggs refused to believe that Roethlisberger wouldn’t be out there.
Now that Pittsburgh’s long-time quarterback has missed two straight games, and the Steelers have lost both to slip three games behind Baltimore in the AFC North, Suggs is looking ahead with more of a divided eye.
“We don’t know who’s going to be under center, but we’re going to prepare for them both,” Suggs said. “We don’t know which one we’re going to get, so it’s better to leave no stone unturned, as some say. So we’re definitely going to prepare for them both, and if he’s in there, he’s in there. It definitely changes things if he plays. But if he doesn’t play, we’ve still got to go out there and play the game.
“No game has ever been won on paper. It’s still the Steelers. It’s still the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re going to come in and they’re going to be hungry and they’re going to try to get a win.”
On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN reported that there’s less than a 50 percent chance that Roethlisberger plays Sunday.
That would be a positive for the Ravens, who are now 5-0 against the Steelers when Roethlisberger is hurt or suspended. Plus, a win could clinch Baltimore the division title when coupled with a Bengals loss at San Diego.
Roethlisberger ranks 13th in the NFL in passing yards per game while throwing for 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions in nine games this year. Batch is coming off an atrocious performance where he was at quarterback for an eight-turnover day at Cleveland.
So it definitely makes a difference who’s starting. Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens will take that into account as they prepare.
“We’ve seen both of those guys, obviously, before. We’ve seen Charlie. We’ve played against him, and obviously, we know Ben,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll defend their offense. What you really have to focus on is defending the offense and the weapons they have in their offense. Their running backs, Heath Miller, the wide receivers - name them, every one of them - is just a huge threat.
“They are a big, physical offensive line - tackle-to-tackle run game. ... That’s the focus more than the quarterback is defending their offense and playing against their team, because they are a great team. That’s what’s made them so good all these years, and that’s what made them so good this year. Just because they have had a number of turnovers and they haven’t played great the last two weeks doesn’t change who they are as a football team. It’s still the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in here, and they are a great football team.”
Update: At Wednesday’s press conference, Harbaugh also said that linebacker Ray Lewis is back in town, rehabbing his torn triceps at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Lewis didn’t practice Wednesday and Harbaugh said the team will take it day by day whether Lewis practices.
“He’s not imminent to return to play or anything like that, so to me, it’s really a non-story,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll go out there when he’s ready to practice, when the elbow holds up, and when that happens, we’ll let you know.”